The Bias Against Bikers
Like it or not, juries hate motorcyclists. They hate the way they sound, the way they speak, the way they dress, and most importantly, the way they drive. For that matter, they also hate bicyclists, roller-bladers, and people who drive ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles). While I was unable to locate any reliable studies that would help explain the specific cause for this bias, to those of us who regularly represent persons injured or killed while operating motorcycles and bicycles, the reason is obvious: almost everyone who drives a car has almost hit one.
To suggest that jury bias against motorcyclists and bicyclists is based solely on the number of “near misses” experienced by automobile operators is to grossly understate the class struggle between two- and four-wheel vehicles, and the dramatic cultural differences that dictate their use and operation.
Because motorcycles and bicycles are, by design, more adept at abrupt maneuvering, motorcyclists and bicyclists tend to push the envelope of that maneuverability in order to gain a competitive advantage over the cars and trucks with which they share the road. For example, despite laws that strictly forbid passing on the left, riding without mufflers, and failing to signal before changing lanes, anyone who has ever operated a car on a public roadway knows that these rules are often ignored by bikers. In their defense, however, the motorcycle community – particularly those with significant experience in motorcycle operation and safety – know that automobile operators routinely treat cyclists as second-class citizens, as though they have no legal right to use the road. Needless to say, the combination of these two misconceptions accounts for much of the bad blood between cars and bikes, and no doubt contributes to the number of motorcycle and bicycle collisions that occur each year.
One fact that highlights the relative safety differences between automobile and motorcycle operators can be found in the standard Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection (P.I.P.), or “no fault” statute. Under the statute, motorcycle operators are barred from purchasing “no fault” benefits to cover the cost of medical expenses and lost wages resulting from the use or operation of a motorcycle. The statute provides no express reason for excluding motorcycle operators, but the nature and severity of the injuries suffered annually in motorcycle-related accidents may explain much.
All too often, motorcycle operators who suffer serious injuries as a result of collisions with cars and trucks are regarded by juries as guilty until proven innocent. While the problem may be due to a cultural bias against bikers, it is nevertheless incumbent upon lawyers who represent injured cyclists to overcome that bias by educating jurors about the culture of safety and responsible riding that serious motorcyclists, bicyclists and other two- and three-wheel vehicle operators embrace.
Eric Parker is a Boston motorcycle injury lawyer with considerable experience in motorcycle-related claims. He can be reached at [email protected]
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